Huggers and Kickers

27th March 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

"Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." ~ Obi-Wan Kenobi


So, during a practica session last week, some things became clear to me, as a leader.

I'd never say anything as simplistic as "There are two types of followers", because the human experience is too rich and varied to be boxed in binary form. It's almost an insult to try to pretend you can box a follower into one of merely two categories. Having said that...

There are two types of followers

I've encountered two distinct types of followers so far, or at least, two types that I can easily identify. I shall call these people Huggers and Kickers respectively.


Huggers are the followers who press up against you like limpets. They surrender their volition to you - it's therefore completely up to you to control the dance, the floorcraft, the musicality, everything.

It's very easy to develop an intense connection with these followers - in fact, it's difficult to avoid. So some of the most intense, connected, close experiences are with these people.

Huggers are great for milonguero-style dancing - small steps, basic, in a crowded Milonga. You can't easily do a variety of steps with huggers. But then, you typically don't want to.

Huggers feel great too - but dancing with a hugger is visually uninspiring. Unless you know what to look for, hug-dancing looks dull.

Personality-wise, my own subjective opinion is that huggers are "purists", to a point; they're fanatical about technique in terms of following. They're probably also less interested in contributing towards interpretation or playing - they probably get satisfaction from being the best followers they can be.

This is what a hugger looks like:

Huggers are Porsches. Smooth, responsive, stylish but not flashy, and a dream to drive.


Kickers are the followers who like to play, who prefer an open embrace, and who like to display their legs in intricate patterns, weaving around their partners. They want a full "dance conversation" with you, and they want to talk as well as to listen. They're happy to help with the dance, and they take a full interest in what you're doing with them.

It's very easy to look good dancing with a kicker - in fact, it's difficult to avoid. Some of the most stylish and cool dance experiences are with these people.

Kickers are great for nuevo-style dancing - circular motions, with plenty of space, possibly to an audience. It's not easy to simply walk with kickers. But then, you typically don't want to.

Kickers look great - but dancing with them can be less connected. If you don't engage and react to your kicker follower, you can sometimes feel like a pole for her to dance around.

Personality-wise, my own subjective opinion is that kickers are "exhibitionists", to a point. They want to look good, they love the fancy stuff - sacadas, overturned ochos, lots and lots of boleos, ganchos, you name it - and they generally want to add interpretation and playfulness to their dancing

This is what a kicker looks like:

Kickers are Ferraris. Fast, flashy, furious, keep you on your toes, and they always turn the heads of onlookers.


So which is best? And which do I prefer?

It should be obvious that there is no "best", so that's a silly question. Is a Porsche better than a Ferrari? Depends what you want to do with it. Depends on what type of driver you want to be.

But which do I prefer? That's not a bad question. But, again, to a certain extent, the answer is, as the saying goes "it depends on your point of view". If I'm downstairs at Negracha on a Friday evening, with Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" blasting away, I'd feel a bit silly simply walking around the room. But then, if I'm at a more traditional milonga, dancing to more normal music in the line of dance, I my also not want someone who's goint to want to raise her leg to eye level at the slightest opporunity. So to speak.

Also, it depends where you are in your own tango journey. It depends on how confident you are, where your strengths are as a leader, and how much experience you have. And it also depends on your own style and preferences as a leader. To a point, at the stage I am now, I'm now quite comfortable wuth the more Hugger-like follower. Depending.

I said at the start, it's silly to try to categorise followers into one camp or the other. But we can all be a little silly sometimes.

 - David Bailey, 27th March 2009

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